Afghan presidential hopefuls fear for safety after Kabul blast

Candidates jockeying to become Afghanistan’s next President lashed out at the incumbent Ashraf Ghani on Monday after deadly violence cast a shadow over the first official day of campaigning.

At least 20 people — most of them civilians — were killed and 50 others wounded on Sunday when a suicide attacker and gunmen targeted the Kabul office of Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh.

The violence served as a grim reminder of Afghanistan’s woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls.

“The government has not paid attention to the candidates’ security,” said Qadir Shah, the spokesman for Hanif Atmar, one of the top contenders looking to stop Mr. Ghani securing a second term at September 28 elections.

Mr. Shah said that he and 12 other candidates had delayed plans to launch their campaigns, primarily over security concerns but also because they see Mr. Ghani as using his office for an unfair advantage.

Mohammad Hakim Torsan, considered a long-shot candidate, said his supporters worry about a repeat of the kind of violence that marred previous polls, when insurgents launched frequent attacks.

“Most of the candidates are worried about the security, but they still have to campaign. The government must provide security for us and the people,” Mr. Torsan said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said security forces had been preparing for the elections for eight months and taken “serious measures” to protect candidates, including the provision of armoured vehicles.


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